By Alyssa Stryker and Carmen Cheung | The Tyee
At over 60 pages, Bill C-51 — the Anti-Terrorism Act — is a heavy read. The bill proposes a myriad of radical changes to Canadian law and to Canada’s national security apparatus, many of which seriously jeopardize the rights and freedoms of Canadians while promising little improvement to public safety.
Canada’s privacy commissioner, ex-CSIS officials, former prime ministers and international whistleblower Edward Snowden have all raised alarm about the bill’s impacts on Canadians’ freedom and privacy. Lawyers at the B.C. Civil Liberties Association have gone over the bill paragraph by paragraph, and we’ve outlined the parts of this document that concern us most.
1. Bill C-51 drastically expands the definition of ‘security.’
When you think of being secure, you likely think of being safe from physical danger. But Bill C-51 defines security as not only safeguarding public safety, but also preventing interference with various aspects of public life or “the economic or financial stability of Canada.” With this definition, a separatist demonstration in Quebec that fails to get a proper permit, a peaceful logging blockade by First Nations, or environmentalists obstructing a pipeline route could all be seen as threats to national security.
2. It gives the government too much discretion to pick and choose which individuals and groups to target for further scrutiny.
Bill C-51 gives the government the ability to designate an extraordinarily broad range of activities as potential security threats. The government claims it will use good judgment when deciding which individuals and groups constitute true threats. Whether or not a group is deemed a national security threat may hinge on whether their cause is politically popular or in line with the views of the government. Continue reading